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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Sydney Film Festival (2) - Barrie Pattison reviews KORÔ NO CHI/THE BLOOD OF WOLVES (Kazuya Shiraishi, Japan, 2018)

Well it's so cold it must be Sydney Film Festival time again.  

Kazuya Shiraishi
Japan's Korô no chi/The Blood of Wolves proved to be a standard Yakuza piece with good ‘scope production, mainly notable for its ultra-violence - an opening finger chopping, shoving pig crap down the victim’s throat, a detailed castration, dug up bodies, a severed head in a urinal.

It’s 1988 and veteran cop Kôji Yakusho operates under the threat of a war between the Kakomura-gumi and the Odani-gumi gangs. His new assistant is a recent graduate from Hiroshima U. The kid is told he’ll be directing traffic for the rest of his life if he doesn’t immediately provoke a fight with a slobby Yakuza in the pachinko parlour where the two cops are talking. Calculated mayhem ensues.

Kôji Yakusho (l), The Blood of Wolves
Turns out the young man has been sent in by Internal Affairs to take down his boss who operates outside any legal or ethical constraints. The prize is the old cop’s diary on the world of crime. It’s reputed to intimidate and coerce the underworld types he reins in. Despite this, the beatings, murders, bar girls, informers, Rising Sun right wingers and unending macho are getting overheated after the disappearance of a manager from one of the mob banks. 

The overall story arc is familiar and predictable. The incidents have already served Kinji Fukasaku’s 1973 Jingi naki tatakai/Battles Without Honor or Humanity. I must admit I didn't see the girl pharmacist’s revelation coming. 

Kôji Yakusho has played the title role for a TV version of Miyamoto Musashi  and appeared in Shall We Dance and Silk. He makes an impression that would be more vivid if we hadn’t already seen Ken Takakura and Beat Takeshi do these characters. Yôko Maki (The Princess Blade, Tokyo Drift) is surprisingly credible as a bar mama-san who holds her own in the world of violent, lecherous men.

While it’s professionally put together,The Blood of Wolves is too long and really too conventional. It would be interesting to know just how it made its way into the festival circuit.

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